You’ve heard that old trope about how, if you can’t stand the heat, you should get out of the kitchen? To which I say, “Oh yeah?” Consider: If the AC’s not on and the outside temperature is past 80, it’s pretty hot in anyone’s kitchen and if we all left, who would feed the family?
Well, happily, there’s an easy solution to the hot kitchen dilemma. Compromise.
Stay in the kitchen just a short time. When a cold meal doesn’t fit the bill, make a hot meal that requires your kitchen stove only be on somewhere in the 30-minute range and, as a bonus, only needs one pan to make so cleanup is almost pleasant.
The pan it needs is a skillet and everything the meal needs goes into it. One-pan meals provide a hot lunch or supper with little time in the kitchen near the stove. And if you use a cast iron skillet, or other suitable, heavy-weight pan, you can cook supper outside on the barbie and add a little smoky essence to the flavors.
PORK CHOPS AND SALSA SKILLET
Choose your heat – mild, medium or hot salsa
4 boneless pork chops, about 3/4-inch thick (4 to 6 oz. each)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbls olive oil, divided
1 lb. zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into half-inch-thick pieces
1 lb. summer squash, also halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into half-inch-thick pieces
1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning (can use sea salt.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbls balsamic vinegar
16 oz. salsa or about 2 C
1/4 C coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Make sure the pork chops are completely dry by patting them on both sides with paper towels. Season well all over with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or frying pan over high heat until oil is shimmering. Add the chops and sear until golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. This browns the outside of the meat but the pork chops will not be cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside until ready to finish their cooking.
Reduce heat to low, and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the zucchini and squash, season with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and stir to combine with the oil. Cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the balsamic vinegar and use a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Lastly, stir in the salsa.
Return the chops and any juices from the plate to the pan, partly covering the meat with vegetables and salsa to keep fully moist. Cover and simmer until the pork chops are fully cooked through, seven to nine more minutes. Stir once or twice to disturb bottom of the pan and distribute heat through the meat and veggies. Serve warm and top with the cilantro. Makes 4 servings. Leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
NOTE: For a nice twist, try this easy dish with some of the delicious fruit salsas available at many farm markets, such as peach salsa.
VEGGIE LASAGNA SKILLET
Light, but filling, summer fare Italiano
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
⅛-1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28 oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 curly-edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch lengths
2 medium zucchini, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 medium yellow summer squash, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 C ricotta cheese, divided
¼ C chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish, if desired
In a 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes (use less for a milder spicy heat) and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Meanwhile, drain the can of tomatoes into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Add enough water to the tomato juice to equal 2 cups. Pour the tomato-water mix over the softened onions and garlic and stir in ½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. black pepper. Scatter the broken noodles over the top. Layer the tomatoes over the noodles. Bring to a simmer, stirring slowly once or twice, then reduce heat to medium.
Cover the pan and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the zucchini and yellow squash and cook, covered, 8 minutes more, until the noodles and squash are tender. Stir in ½ cup of the ricotta and the fresh basil. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper and remove from stove. Spoon dollops of the remaining ½ cup ricotta over the top. Allow to cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving, and garnish with additional fresh basil, if desired. Makes six servings.
Note: For meat lovers, add up to 1/2 lb. ground beef to the skillet when adding the onions and garlic. Cook and stir until beef shows no red, then proceed with rest of the directions. Or, add shredded chicken or small cubes of cooked ham as the meat contribution.
SWEET POTATO AND SHRIMP SKILLET
Gluten free, Paleo, and ready in under 30 minutes.
2 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
½ C onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 C canned, drained sweet potatoes, diced; OR peel and dice fresh sweet potatoes
2 C shrimp, peeled, deveined (thawed if frozen)
3 C trimmed and coarsely chopped kale leaves
salt and ground black pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and crushed red pepper. cook until the onions are soft and golden. add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the sweet potatoes and cook until soft. add a few tablespoons or ¼ cup of water to help steam the sweet potatoes, if necessary, for freshly cut-up potatoes. Do not add too much water; potatoes will get soggy.
Add the shrimp; cook for 2-3 minutes or until they turn pink. Turn heat to low, and add the kale, stirring until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Serves four.
By Jean Redstone